Criminal Defense & DUI attorney Richard A. Madsen, Jr. (a former Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney) has represented thousands of first-time and repeat offenders who have been arrested or charged with driving under the influence in Contra Costa County and throughout Northern California with outstanding results. Utilizing his impeccable reputation and long-term relationships with district attorneys and judges, he will work aggressively to protect your rights before the criminal courts and California DMV.
Many people charged with DUI (Driving Under the Influence) in California have a particularly difficult time dealing with their criminal charge, often because it is the first time they have ever been confronted by the court system. DUI charges are made against approximately 1.5 million drivers every year. These arrests can result in serious consequences. A person who is convicted of a DUI can face heavy fees and penalties, a loss of driving privileges, and may be sentenced to serve jail time.
Given that so much is at stake in a DUI case, it is vital not only to hire a lawyer, but to hire the right lawyer.
There are TWO CASES for every DUI Arrest
There are essentially two different cases that are brought simultaneously against you when you are arrested for a DUI. First, there is the DMV action (Department of Motor Vehicles) – this is where your driver's license may be taken away from you. Second, there is the criminal case – this can result in jail time, fines, classes for alcohol education, community service or any combination of these things.
California DMV Hearing
If you have been arrested for a DUI, you must properly request a DMV hearing within 10 days of the arrest. If you do not do so, your license will be automatically suspended or revoked 30 days after your arrest, and you will likely lose your right to challenge this outcome.
The DMV proceeding is very different from the criminal courtroom proceeding. These hearings are much more informal, and they are run by a Driver Safety Office (DSO) Hearing Officer, who is an employee of the Department of Motor Vehicles (this hearing is not run by a lawyer or a judge). The standard of proof in DMV hearings is a “preponderance” of the evidence, which is a much lower standard than what is used in criminal court.
DMV hearings can be very technical. The documentation that is given to a person who is arrested for DUI can be confusing and it does not clearly explain that a hearing must be requested in a very short period of time. Contrary to what it says on the form, you do not have to show that the suspension is not justified – rather, the DMV must show that the suspension is justified.
Important Factors for the California DUI Criminal Case
Simultaneous to the DMV hearing, the accused person must face the DUI charges in court. The penalities for drunk driving in the State of California are set forth by statute and can be very complicated. Judges have broad discretion – another reason to hire the right lawyer. The basic statute allows for a range of possible DUI sentences, but there may be modifications to the sentence based on the following factors:
- An accident involving an injury
- Having a prior conviction within the last ten (10) years
- Speeding 20 mph (or more) over the speed limit at the time of the DUI
- Having a child in the car at the time of the DUI
- Having a blood-alcohol reading of over .15%
- Refusing to submit yourself to chemical testing
Within the range that is set forth by statute, the sentence in a DUI case will be affected by such factors as:
- The various facts of the case
- The policies of the prosecutors and local courthouse
- The weaknesses or “holes” in the case, as uncovered by the defense attorney
- The REPUTATION of the defense attorney
It is important to note that the results of the breath or blood test will be a factor in determining the severity of the charges that will be brought against you and the possible sentences. If you were driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or more you will be charged with a DUI. Please remember, however, that the DUI laws relate to the blood-alcohol level at the time of the driving, and not at the time of the test. This is a very important difference that may be used in your favor. It is also important to understand that the tests — particularly the breath tests — are unreliable and therefore susceptible to attack by an experienced DUI attorney.
There are several treatment alternatives to jail.